Despite their geographical separation, Pakistan and Germany have maintained a close and multifaceted friendship from the very beginning. Indeed both nations share fundamental principles such as democracy, pluralism, diversity, peace, and security, which have served as the foundation for their enduring friendship.
As rightly stated by Mr. Alfred Grannas, German Ambassador to Pakistan, “Germany and Pakistan share deep ties and a rich history.”
Pakistan and Germany share significant historical parallels. Both nations were established within two years of each other in the aftermath of World War II and the political realignment that followed. These difficult circumstances had a significant impact on their political and strategic futures.
Pakistan and Germany have successfully developed a relationship based on trust, respect, and cooperation despite the obstacles. It is evident from the fact that even yesterday, on 1st October 2023, Germany pledged €20 million to Pakistan for assisting the country in the ongoing economic crisis. In addition, Germany is a leader in the Friends of Democratic Pakistan Forum, an international coalition of nations that supports Pakistan’s democratic transition.
Political exchanges between the two nations have continued, frequently in virtual formats, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. The 5th session of the Pakistan-Germany Strategic Dialogue held in September 2020, which was conducted via video conference, demonstrated their commitment to maintaining political ties. High-level visits, including those of the then Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, and Germany’s Heiko Maas, strengthened their ties.
According to Shah Mahmood Qureshi, “Indeed, our (Pak-German diplomatic) ties are underpinned by shared values of democracy, pluralism, diversity, peace, and security.”
Besides diplomatic relations, Germany and Pakistan maintain strong military-to-military collaboration, which is evidenced through different events and activities such as interactions between military leaders, staff college exchanges, technical assistance, and joint military exercises. These activities demonstrate the extent of their defense and security cooperation.
As Pakistan’s main trading partner in the European Union (EU), Germany plays a crucial role in Pakistan’s economy. Germany is Pakistan’s fourth-greatest trading partner and a significant source of foreign direct investment. In addition to providing substantial development assistance to Pakistan, the German government supports numerous initiatives in areas such as education, healthcare, infrastructure, and poverty reduction.
In 2019, the total value of German exports to Pakistan was €1.8 billion. These exports included machinery, chemicals, electrical goods, motor vehicles, and ferrous products. Textiles, leather products, sporting goods, footwear, and medical instruments constituted €1.1 billion worth of Pakistan’s exports to Germany. This robust trade relationship has resulted in a trade surplus for Germany, an occurrence that is extremely uncommon for Pakistan. Also, both countries have signed several MOUs to expand mutual trade and business initiatives.
Despite the market’s challenges, German companies have established a strong presence in Pakistan, demonstrating their commitment to the country. Approximately forty German corporations operate in Pakistan, contributing considerably to the country’s economic development.
In Pakistan, prominent German social organizations such as the Friedrich EbertStiftung, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, and the Hanns Seidel Foundation are active. They prioritize strengthening democracy, furthering education, fostering human rights, and addressing climate change.
The academic and cultural exchanges between Pakistan and Germany have flourished over the decades. The official estimates for 2018 reveal that roughly 73,975 Pakistanis are living in Germany for study and work purposes. German institutions of higher education are a popular option for Pakistani students. Approximately five thousand Pakistani scholars are currently enrolled in various German universities and have benefited from DAAD scholarships offered by Germany.
Additionally, German students attend universities in Pakistan, nurturing intercultural connections.
It has been rightly pointed out by Ms. Huma Baqai, Associate Professor & Former Associate Dean IBA, while addressing the audience about “Social and education learnings” on the 19th FGP FNF IAF Gummersbach Alumni Reunion, Nov 2021, at Lahore,
“The political foundations work to promote people’s civic participation, support young academic talent with scholarships, support the development of democracies, and support human rights abroad.”
Over the years, Pakistan and Germany have forged a deep and complex friendship. While there are challenges and opportunities for further development, both nations are progressing and cooperating in a positive direction. As Pakistan is going through diverse political and economic challenges, there is optimism that bilateral relations between Pakistan and Germany will reach new heights of mutual benefit and collaboration in the coming years.
Concluding this with the statement of Mr. Bernhard Schlagheck, the former German Ambassador to Pakistan,
“The political, economic, and cultural relations between Germany and Pakistan are longstanding, robust, and reliable. That doesn’t mean our interests are identical at all times; they aren’t, and they shouldn’t have to be. Yet, bringing our interests together in a fair and mutual dialogue is one of the most important tasks of an embassy. And that is exactly what we aim to achieve with our work here in Pakistan: to be a translator and make the flavor of our friendship recognizable.”